VIN News - One of the most gifted and inspired composers of Hassidic niggunim Rabbi Ben Tzion Shknker has passed away this morning Sunday November 20 2016. at the age of 91.
Shenker was born in Williamsburg in 1925, four years after his parents arrived in America. He unknowing embarked on his musical career even before his fifth birthday when his mother would play recorded cantorial albums for him for hours at a time, giving him an appreciation for Jewish music and exposure to often complex pieces of music.
With his innate talent, Shenker developed an unusual aptitude for cantorial music at a very young age and by the time he was 12 he had been hand picked to become part of a children’s choir.
One year later, he had his own 15 minute radio program on Sunday afternoons and as a student at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath he got permission from Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz to do the show as long as he returned promptly for second seder.
Shenker’s long association with Modzitz began at age 15 when he happened to spend a Shabbos meal with the Modzitzer Rebbe. Picking up a book on Chasidic music, which included a chapter on the Modzitzer Rebbe and musical notations of some of his compositions, Shenker began singing the notes to himself.
Noticing Shenker, the Rebbe was surprised to discover that the yeshiva student was able to read and write music and over time he became the Modzitzer Rebbe’s musical secretary.
In his lifetime, Shenker is believed to charted approximately 100 Modzitzer niggunim and to have composed approximately 500 original songs. He also served as the chazan in the Modzitzer synagogue in Brooklyn for five decades.
Click here a collection of videos we posted of Reb Ben Zion Shenker
Here is a in depth interview of Reb Ben Zion Shenker from Wexler Oral History Project in July 3, 2012